The push up may just be the best total body exercise that develops upper body strength and definition, builds core strength and even burns calories. Done properly, it uses muscles in the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs and even the legs. This simple exercise has been used in sports and military training for years because it requires no equipment and is one of the best strength training exercises around. It is important to use proper form in any type of push-up.
Watch this video to see the proper for a standard push-up:
There are many variations on the basic push-up exercise to focus on specific muscle groups.
Here are just a few provided by Hoist Fitness, premier strength equipment manufacturer:
- The Standard Pushup. Are you familiar with it? It works your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. Kneel down on all fours and place your hands slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Set your feet together and straighten your arms and legs. Your body should form a straight line from ankles to head. Keeping your elbows pulled in toward your sides, lower your chest to an inch above the floor, and press back up.
- Have you ever done a Turkish Getup? This exercise is an easy way to work your entire body. Lie flat on your back and hold a dumbbell above you. Keeping the weight above you at all times, stand up slowly, pause, and then lie back down. Try 3-5 reps for each arm.
- English Alternation Grip Single-Leg pushup works your lower-abdominal muscles and places more demand on your chest. Place your right hand in a standard pushup position, but move your left hand a few inches forward. Raise your right leg and lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Push back to the starting position. Do half your reps, then switch.
- The Brazilian Triangle pushup forces one arm to work harder to handle a heavier load, and changes the angle of movement to stimulate more muscle involvement. Assume a pushup position, but form fists with your hands so your knuckles are flat against the floor. Lower your chest to your left hand, pause, and push back up. Repeat, this time lowering your chest to your right hand. Alternate sides each rep.
- The Russian Kettlebell pushup challenges your forearms, rotator cuffs, and core muscles as a result of the instability of the exercise. Assume a pushup position, but place each hand on a kettlebell with your palms facing each other. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the kettlebells, pause, and then push back to the starting position.
- The Japanese Uchi Mata pushup increases activation of your core, lower back, and hamstrings while also boosting demand on the muscles in your shoulders. From a pushup position, lift your right foot so your leg is parallel to the floor. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Now raise your lifted leg higher into the air. Push back to the starting position doing half reps.
- To improve total-body conditioning and mental toughness try Plate Pushes. Place a 45-pound weight plate on top of a towel so it glides. Put your hands on the plate, and drive with your legs to push the plate quickly across the floor for 25 to 40 yards. Rest 60 seconds. Repeat 2-5 times.